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FCW : April 15, 2015
April 15, 2015 FCW.COM 17 If there’s a poster child for the importance of program management, it’s probably HealthCare.gov. The web- site’s troubled rollout in 2013 revealed serious short- comings in the coordinated, practical oversight that a complex IT initiative requires, and the Government Account- ability Office concluded in a July 2014 report that the site’s problems were due to “ineffective planning or oversight practices” during its development. The challenges extend far beyond any one program, how- ever. In February, federal IT acquisition was one of two additions to GAO’s list of programs at high risk of fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement. The other addition was veterans’ health care, where the problems also include a substantial IT program component. GAO’s 2014 report identifies big problems not only with HealthCare.gov but also with other massive federal IT proj- ects. The Department of Homeland Security’s now-aban- doned $1 billion Secure Border Initiative, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ failed $609 million Financial and Logistics Integrated Technology Enterprise program, the Office of Personnel Management’s canceled $231 million Retirement Systems Modernization and other junked programs were all cited as evidence of shaky federal IT management. If there’s a bright side, however, it’s that the queasiness brought on by such programs — along with the now-guar- anteed GAO spotlight — are helping to spur the federal government to manage IT better. Experts in industry and government point to redoubled efforts to implement prov- en project management techniques and agile development practices, lure new digital thought leaders into the manage- ment ranks, and provide IT managers with more concrete models for steering large IT projects. With such high-profile problems, program manage- ment experts say, the environment is ripe for new ways to approach an issue that has dogged the federal government for some time: how to manage big, complex IT systems that threaten to grow even larger as technology becomes more interconnected. Program management and its sister discipline, project management, involve having dedicated processes and managers who keep big, complex programs and projects on track. The federal government has been trying to address both disciplines for some time, at least since the General Services Administration introduced its Trail Boss program in the 1980s. The effort has continued with the Obama admin- istration’s initiatives to instill the attitudes and practices program management BY MARK ROCKWELL The challenges of keeping enterprise-level IT projects on track are nothing new, but forces are aligning to put new emphasis on doing PM right Putting a premium on SHUTTERSTOCK 0415fcw_016-022.indd 17 3/24/15 1:41 PM
March 30, 2015
April 30, 2015